City hub. Bright vibrant worlds. Wearable companion that fundamentally alters the gameplay. Sounds like the new Mario, right? Well, yeah, but think back a few years, and there was another core game featuring the portly, red-capped plumber that fits this bill: Super Mario Sunshine.
Sunshine is a superb title that has stood the test of time well. I must have put about 50-60 hours around the time of its release as I wanted to discover every secret, collect every blue coin and soak in Delfino Plaza’s atmosphere.
Sadly, even though this was a slick game that successfully implemented numerous large changes to the tried and tested Mario formula, it is not remembered as fondly as many of the 2D titles, Mario 64 or the later Galaxy series.
Frustrating, to say the least.
Its effective and quirky mechanics have yet to be copied so I was excited when I heard that Mario will have a similarly interesting wearable companion once more.
Yet, even putting that aside, there are numerous other qualities that the two games share in common that set them apart from other titles in the series.
Perhaps the biggest similarity is that an accessory item plays a major role in each game.
In Sunshine, this was F.L.U.D.D, a talking water backpack that can fire water at enemies, or used as a tool to reach previously unreachable locations by shooting water at the ground.
This fundamentally altered the way players perceive what they can do within any given environment and allowed even more incredible acrobatic feats to be achieved by allowing Mario to reach higher places such as tightropes or higher platforms.
Similarly, Cappy, the hat from Odyssey, can be thrown as a weapon, jumped on like a platform to cross large distances, or take over the bodies of enemies.
Perhaps even more so than Sunshine, Cappy’s inclusion could have an even larger impact as Mario can morph into enemies and steal their abilities, as well as being a tool to shoot projectiles or reach previously unreachable areas. This could mean taking the shape of a Bullet Bill or Goomba, for instance.
However, much like any 3D Mario title, these items do not necessarily have to change the gameplay as Mario can still run, jump and attack in the same way he could in any other game. He just gains extra functions.
It was a brave decision to take Mario and put him in a city environment in Sunshine. It was even braver to meddle with the tried and tested formula by giving him a waterpack – an item that fundamentally changed the way Mario interacts with environments. But Nintendo pushed ahead and produced one of their finest games.
Since Odyssey’s first trailer, some gamers were pessimistic about the inclusion of Cappy like many prior to the release of Sunshine so it will be interesting to see whether that sentiment similarly sways when the game is released.
When I think about Mario Sunshine, the first images that enters my mind are the warm colours that fill the beach side world, small islands not far in the distance, and verdant palm trees. There is rarely a single moment that isn’t filled with bright hues popping up in all directions.
It is colourful and clever, expansive and inviting. While the Galaxy games cover, well, the limitless expanse of space, Mazza mostly moved between small – often isolated – planets enshrouded by darkness. I found this could, on occasion, become progressively less interesting after long play sessions.
Equally, Odyssey will make use of large open world environments where the player will be able to explore expansive, colourful terrains, but looks like it may have an even greater variety of terrain types.
Do not get me wrong, the two Galaxy games are some of the best to have ever graced any console, but I missed the freedom of regularly jumping between tall buildings, giant mountains, rivers or anything simple that can be achieved on spherical level types.
Difficult, Difficult, Lemon difficult
Even Nintendo themselves have mentioned that Odyssey will be a leap back into more difficult gameplay as they look to appeal to a more traditional crowd.
Looking at the videos that have been released so far, it seems that one of the ways they will implement a higher difficulty is through smaller mini challenges like those that appeared in Mario Sunshine.
Ain’t no Sunshine
It isn’t just the influence of Mario Sunshine that can be seen in Odyssey, though. Other concepts have been cherry picked from all over the place. Homages to the earlier NES titles through 2D platforming segments, the flag from the New Super Mario Bros games, and even the terrifying worm-like creature from Mario 64.
Ninty know how to take the best and work these sexy things into an even more attractive package.
I have no doubt that Mario Odyssey will be an excellent game. I love Galaxy and consider it one of the best platformers of all time, but, equally, I loved Sunshine and the fact that they share a lot of similarities is a positive thing.
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